Google Cloud Signs Deal for Access to SpaceX’s Starlink

Google Cloud announced a deal to enable SpaceX to use its infrastructure to track Starlink ground stations through Google Cloud’s datacenter properties. This will enable the secure, low-latency, and reliable delivery of data from Starlink’s satellite constellation to locations at the network edge through Google Cloud.

Users of Google Cloud rely on their ability to connect to its datacenters pretty much 24/7. That can be difficult if their ISPs have technical issues or a natural disaster interrupts ground-based utilities.

“Combining Starlink’s high-speed, low-latency broadband with Google’s infrastructure and capabilities provides global organizations with the secure and fast connection that modern organizations expect,” said SpaceX President and COO Gwynn Shotwell.

SpaceX has already established Starlink’s ability to function in areas with traditionally unreliable Internet service or that have been recently impacted by natural disaster. It worked with Washington State to provide services to emergency responders during 2020’s wildfires at the same time that Verizon was throttling firefighters’ connectivity. It also sent Starlink terminals to Kentucky in mid-December to assist with tornado recovery efforts.

SpaceX inked deals with the Native American Hoh Tribe and Cherokee Nation to provide Internet service to low-income members. It is also working with Chile and Brazil to bring reliable high-speed Internet to remote communities. SpaceX has also placed bids to work with efforts by the United States and U.K. to develop Internet broadband services for isolated or low-income communities.

Adding Google Cloud enables Starlink to bring larger organizations that rely on cloud services like apps running on the cloud, analytics, and artificial intelligence on board. These organizations could use Starlink as a reliable way to provide connectivity to remote teams when other ISPs’ services might get throttled or disconnected altogether right when they need reliable communications the most. In some cases in which mobility might be an important variable, Starlink access could be added to mobile units with specialized terminals that SpaceX is developing to mount on large vehicles like RVs and busses.

(Still not a good idea to mount it on the hood of your car, though. Wouldn’t surprise me if some people at SpaceX were scratching their heads at that one guy out in California. For once, though, the headlines didn’t involve a Tesla vehicle.)

SpaceX has launched nearly 2,000 Starlink satellites and aims to launch a total of 42,000 in the future. It already gets speeds and latency that are nearly comparable to “traditional” landline broadband Internet service and way better than other satellite Internet services.

Elon Musk bragged about having more than 500,000 registrants on a waitlist to access Starlink. Demand is so great that it had to delay some deliveries of Starlink terminals to 2023. On the bright side, it has been working on improving the efficiency of producing the terminals with an eye toward bringing the cost of manufacturing each unit down. Right now, it charges $499 for each “Starlink kit,” which includes a terminal. However, Gwynn Shotwell said that SpaceX aims to get that cost down to as low as $125 per Starlink kit to make the upfront fee more affordable.